Kodak Ektra – hard to tell if it’s a phone or a camera, seen from the back … In a surprising move from Kodak, the company forever synonymous with photography unveiled the Kodak Ektra, a photography-first smartphone. Chase Jarvis coined the phrase “The best camera is the one that’s with you”, and I couldn’t agree more. For many of us, that’s our phone. Building a phone around a proper camera instead of the other way around is something that hasn’t really been done to the extent that many photographers might like. It seems this didn’t go unnoticed by Kodak, and they’ve jumped at the chance to stake a claim, and define that niche for themselves. The Ektra is not the first smartphone to bear the Kodak brand, you have probably never heard of the IM5, released early last year and to be honest a pretty feeble attempt to grab hold of people’s nostalgia for the Kodak brand. Not a great phone, nor a great camera. The Kodak Ektra however looks like a much better attempt. It seems like Kodak might be onto something this time although the specs themselves seem average compared to how far some manufacturers are currently pushing to claim the top smartphone camera spot. The hardware itself is made by Bullitt, who are a manufacturer-for-hire and make phones for Caterpillar among others. Kodak have some major competition for the hearts and minds of mobile photographers. There is certainly a legitimate market for a fantastic camera that happens to make phone calls, connect you with all your social media, and let you run all your favorite smartphone apps… but is the Ektra really everything it claims to be? Kodak Ektra – Gimmick or Game Changer? It can be argued that the imaging specs of the Ektra are not actually pushing the envelope. The camera is based around a 21MP Sony sensor with 6-axis optical image stabilization and an f/2.0 lens. This is good, but far from revolutionary, considering the 41MP sensor in the Nokia Lumia 1020, or dual camera configurations from the major players in a cutthroat industry that will pull out all the stops to offer the best imaging tech available. Is Kodak offering the best cutting edge imaging technology? Not really, but it does stack up pretty well. Kodak Ektra: 21MP, UHD 4K video, f/2 fixed lens, optical image stabilization Sony Experia Z5 Compact: 23MP, UHD 4K video, f/2.3 fixed lens Apple iPhone 7: 12MP, UHD 4K video, f/1.8 fixed lens, optical image stabilization Apple iPhone 7 Plus: 2x 12MP, UHD 4K video, f/1.8 wide angle fixed lens + f/2.8 telephoto fixed lens, optical image stabilization Samsung Galaxy S6: 16MP, UHD 4K video, f/1.9 fixed lens, optical image stabilization Huawei P9: 2x 12MP, UHD 4K video, f/2.2 (x2) fixed lens, SteadyShot video stabilization Maybe it’s not about that. I’m sure the camera functions just fine, and produces perfectly acceptable images, as well as 4K video. The Ektra does have an attractive design and a distinct style which will appeal to the photo enthusiast, especially those like myself who like to shoot film and walk around with 40-year-old SLR’s hanging around the neck. It has a nostalgic leatherette covering, a throwback to a time long past. I think the real answer is in the software that comes bundled with the Ektra. The camera app itself features a DSLR style dial for scene selection with haptic touch control, all manual functions and is tightly integrated with Snapseed. When it comes down to it these are features we have with a number of pro-oriented phone camera apps already, and to an actual professional, a dial might seem a tad bit gimmicky compared to the user experience of some popular camera apps. There’s also a super 8 video app which gives you the look and feel of super 8 film when shooting video, and right there I can tell, this is a product which is still attempting to pull on brand nostalgia more than truly ground breaking imaging technology. As a mobile imaging package, hardware + software, and the associated Kodak ecosystem of being able to order prints and photobooks right from the device I believe the Kodak Ektra will appeal to the consumer photography enthusiast more than the pure professional. This is a camera phone for everyone, and brings pro features to image makers who might otherwise not have discovered the great standalone apps out there by themselves, but won’t likely appeal to professional photographers just based on imaging specifications alone. Is it a step up from the previous Kodak IM5? Absolutely. Is it competitive with other mainstream camera phones? Yes. Do I want one? Definitely. Will it replace my iPhone and favourite camera apps? … Probably not. Check out the details about the Kodak Ektra here.Read more
Rumor has it we may see a dual camera iPhone 7 Plus at some point. Why two cameras you may ask? Welcome to the age of computational photography, where an image is not the direct result of a single optical exposure, but the calculated result of image information combined from two or more image sensors. The combination of the high resolution, high performance compact imagers and optics in todays smartphones plus the increasing computational power of mobile processors allows some heavy duty real-time image processing that just wasn’t possible until now. Why two are better than one The combinations of multiple imagers allows all kinds of imaging improvements, ranging from higher quality, and more accurate noise reduction in low light conditions, to improved resolution and color sampling, as well as optical quality zoom with no actual moving optics. The technology allows a significant amount of “virtualization” of otherwise physical optical processes. According to MacRumors, Apple may well implement this technology and bring out a dual camera iPhone 7 Plus thanks to technology acquired from LinX. This is a similar technology to Corephotonics dual camera imaging system seen in this video produced by CNET. According to CNET – “Corephotonics has three models currently ready for use in phones, the first being a combination of a 13-megapixel and an 8-megapixel camera that gives a maximum 3x optical zoom. The second, its slimmest model, is a combination of two 13-megapixel cameras, though one is black-and-white only, for better low-light shots. The third and final new model is a called “Hawkeye” and features two paired 13-megapixel cameras; one’s normal and the other uses a proprietary technology that folds the light for 5x optical zoom. It’s also capable of optical image stabilisation.” Smartphones Are Catching Up It is no secret that the gap between smartphone cameras and the likes of the DSLR and mirrorless compact camera have been closing. What is interesting, and perhaps a little surprising to some is that the smartphone market is leading the revolution, not the professional photography tech industry. In fact, it seems there is evidence that the DSLR and mirrorless market may in fact be shrinking. It is clear that the commercial power of mass market devices has a much stronger pull than the relatively niche world of professional photography. It’s been said for some time that “the best camera you have is the one that’s on you”, and more than ever, that’s your phone. It will be interesting to see what the video results are from these technologies, and when this type of computational imaging will come to high end digital video. I wrote up some thoughts a while back for anyone interested in some further reading, it’s a far stretch from the technology we’ll see in our smartphones but I believe it’s the future: Computational Photography for Cinema – When Lenses Become Plugins It seems we will have to wait and see how this technology plays out in the smartphone market first before we worry too much about selling off all our beloved lenses.Read more
by Kevin Alexander | 15th July 2015
The Lumenati CS1 Kickstarter campaign hopes to provide a simplified solution for cinematic shooting on a smartphone and could as well turn out to become the ultimate retro-style iPhone 6 camera case. As smartphone cameras become more powerful it seems as if more and more companies are developing products to get the best results out of them. Just this past weekend we posted an article about a Kickstarter campaign for an impressive rig for your smartphone. If this is something you’re into then here’s yet another crowdfunding campaign for you to consider. The Lumenati CS1 isn’t exactly a “rig” for your iPhone. The company is pitching it as more of an iPhone 6 camera case with a retro design. It’s currently only planned to work with the iPhone 6, but the company might support other models if the campaign is successful. Setup seems to be pretty simple – just slide the phone into the case. It uses a small portion of the phone screen to work as a digital viewfinder to eliminate sun glare, and a record trigger on the front of the unit. It has a built in f/2.2 lens, but auxiliary lenses can be attached to change the focal length. Take note we’re not talking about DSLR lenses here – these are 58mm auxiliary lens attachments that attach to the front of the built in lens of this iPhone 6 camera case. Other features include a standard thread for tripod mounting and a cold shoe accessory to add other accessories such as a handle, microphone or lights. They’re still developing the app which will control recording, manual exposure, and also allow for in camera editing. Now, to be fair, there’s one feature that shooters might find annoying. The record trigger must be held down while shooting. So if your finger slips… Well, you lose your shot. Shooting projects on a smartphone certainly doesn’t appeal to everyone. But for those just starting out with limited resources, or even pros who just like to experiment, there are a growing number of options available to take the cameras in our pockets and transform them into something a bit more useful. The Kickstarter campaign lasts until August 12 and the eventual retail price has yet to be decided. For early backers the Lumetri CS1 iPhone 6 Camera Case will cost $199 and includes a .45 wide angle lens.Read more
by Kevin Alexander | 12th July 2015
IndieVice turns your smartphone camera into a handheld camera complete with lens adapters for your DSLR lenses. It’s no secret that smartphones are now capable of taking some pretty great looking videos. Sure, they have their limitations. But what if you could actually use one and get some professional results? Well, here’s an interesting Kickstarter campaign to check out. IndieVice allows you to handhold your smartphone camera to get stable, professional shots. Your smartphone slides into this unit and it allows you to get stable handheld shots. Of course, the viewfinder eliminates sun glare, but since you can’t touch the phone’s screen they have added a BlueTooth zoom and record button controller to the unit. But IndieVice also allows the phone to swivel out and allow you to make adjustments to the camera app when necessary, or simply to use the screen instead of the viewfinder when shooting. IndieVice also has various lens adapters available, allowing you to use virtually any lens you already own. And you can also attach a GoPro to the unit, allowing you to shoot handheld while using the BlueTooth record button controller. Granted, there are no professional audio inputs on this device. You can certainly use adapters to connect your mic to your smartphone, but it’s definitely limited in its audio capabilities. Still, we live in an era of rapid democratization of video production gear. Not only can a newcomer easily gain access to gear, but professionals have many more options open to them for their projects. This device looks like it might inspire newcomers to use their smartphone to start making their own videos. And perhaps professionals might have another option for gathering b-roll on the fly. Regardless, it’s always nice to see some innovative ideas coming to fruition. IndieVice has already met its funding goal and will begin shipping in March 2016. But you can still pledge and preorder your own unit for around $145.Read more
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